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Blue tinted optimist
Oct 28, 2003
Cloud cuckoo land

Southend returned to the top of league one tonight after a professional but spluttering display against a team surely destined for league 2 if not extinction.

The three points were, to be honest, courtesy of a first half mugging and Rotherhams total ineptitude in front of goal.  The game was reminiscent of so many away days the last time we were in this league and made the drop into the basement.  We would dominate games and not deserve to lose, yet lose we did and often comfortably.  The tables have been turned as surely only the most diehard optimistic shrimper would have thought that we deserved the spoils tonight.

After a bright start, Gower turned his man on the edge of the box in the 12th minute and shot goalwards.  The ball somehow eluded everyone, struck the post, and instantly turned into food for the Goat as he prodded home to put Blues one up.  This had the effect of spurring Rotherham into life and their pacy frontline were giving the Blues defence, Sodje in particular, a torrid time.  In fact, Efe looked more dodgy than Sodje as he made several unforced and careless errors in what surely must have been the worst half he has played for us so far.  Freddy's touch had completely deserted him as he went through a mad five minutes when he could do nothing but give the ball away.  The Maher/Guttridge midfield combo were also off colour as Rotherham seemed to be all over us like a rash and pushed hard for an equaliser, spurning chance after chance.  Darryl Flahavan was on top form but in fairness there was very little that looked capable of beating him.

Then, at the height of the pressure, a lucky rebound fell our way and Gower swept the ball forward to Eastwood, who played a delightful one two with Goater before tucking the ball past the keeper on 36 minutes.

That was that - game over.

Rotherham wasted a few more gilt edged opportunities, the best of which was a pathetic attempt at a free header from 5 yards out that seemed to bounce off the strikers cheek/neck before dropping harmlessly into Flahavans arms.

At the start of the second half, Blues almost scored a third straight from the kick off when a Freddy piledriver was parried out to Bentley who was just about to tap into the unguarded net when a visiting boot toe-poked the ball out for a corner. Afetr that, Southend's job was one of containment.  Prior stood strong, Sodje became less dodgy, and the only moments of concern resulted from errors made by Jupp and Wilson, who were otherwise solid.

But as the game began to drift away from Rotherham, the tackles flew in more and the game became a niggly affair.  The ref, who was actually pretty good, booked several people in the second half but was really given no option.

Guttridge, who had been off colour, went down under an alleged late challenge but I have to say from my position (alomost bang in line) there seemed to be clear daylight between him and his assailant, who was yellow carded.  Within minutes the favour had been returned, as the assailant leapt theatrically into the air as Guttridge ran past him.  Again, the ref was conned as there was even more daylight between the players.  Guttridge was carded and subbed shortly afterwards to stop him getting sent off, which was very much on the cards and this seemed to be Rotherhams main aim as victory was clearly no longer on the agenda.

Bradbury had a decent 15 minutes in place of The Goat, who had been a useful outlet and it was nice to see him get a standing ovation from both sets of fans.  First impressions - he will endear himself to the fans because he will chase everything and this nearly reaped rewards on one occasion.  He could have had a hat trick on another day and if anything looked as if he was trying a bit too hard.

So, we keep the pressure on the other teams around us who  must now all win to maintain the same position that existed just 3 1/2 hours ago.  Any slip ups strengthen our position, which I have to say looks scarily tasty.  I will be happy to reserve our real performances for our travels and carry on spluttering to victories at home which will ultimately ensure we go up as champions.

Ratings -

Flahavan - 8.5 - MOM.  Didn't put a foot wrong, made several good saves and handling impeccable.  If there was a weakness it was perhaps distribution but otherwise he has turned into a very, VERY competent keeper.

Jupp - 7 - Solid enough - usual heartstopping moments on occasions but made some fantastic blocks and tackles.
Wilson - 7 - He has improved immeasurably since last season and again made some great blocks and tackles.
Prior - 8 - Pick of the defence, commanding in the air, strong in the tackle.  Couldn't have given more.
Sodje- 6 - The first bad day at the office for Efe, who was booked late on for blocking their striker when clean through.  In fairness, I didn't think he could have gotten out of the way, but if the ref thought it was a foul I think he should have been red carded as he was last man.  Not complaining though!  Only one goal conceded since he joined, so how bad is that?

Gower - 8 - Superb performance.  Gower at his creative best, which I didn't think we would ever see again due to his fitness problems.
Maher - 6.5 - Seemed overrun and has reverted to the looping  lay off aimed at no-one in particular again.  Rotherham shut our midfield down very well, so lets give him the benefit of the doubt.
Guttridge - 6.5 - Off colour tonight and a shadow of the player he has been so far. Also cheated to get an opponent booked as far as I was concerned and what goes around comes around, as he found out later.
Bentley - 7 - Had a couple of chances and always looked for the ball.  Keeps going and going.

Eastwood - 7 - Rotherham were extremely physical towards him and his quick feet got him out of trouble on occasion.  Notched another goal to end his barren spell and seal the points.
Goater - 7.5 - The pass to Eastwood for the second goal was sublime.  He looked exactly what we wanted him to be - strong, powerful and held the ball up extremely well.


Bradbury - 7 - Could have had a goal or two, tried hard, perhaps too hard?
Cole - 6 - Came on for Gower.  No real opportunites.
Pettefer - 6 - On for Guttridge in last minute and I don't think he touched the ball.

Ref - Decent enough.  7.  Coloured lino made some interesting decisions though!